Hauppague Kudos!

June 12th, 2007

While the local CompUSA was still in business, I picked up a Hauppauge PVR-150 for the MythTV build.

When I took it out of the box, I had a bit of a surprise. The card should look like this.

Instead, it looked like:hauppauge card

What’s missing, you say? This: hauppauge thingey

Eeek! Since the store was closing, they were in a “no returns” mode, not that they were every very nice about returns. So, I emailed Hauppauge, and sent a couple of pics.

Hauppauge’s return team has got to be one of the best I’ve used. No problems, immediately got an RMA number, sent the card back, got a new one.

Kudos to Hauppauge for a great experience!

Review: Cricut Die cutter

January 10th, 2007

First, some vital stats. This device is a cross between a die cutter and a printer. For those of you who don’t know, a die cutter is a thing that removes various shapes, characters, etc. from paper. Yes, this is a punch. It’s called a die cutter, it’s a scrapbooking thing.

This unit comes in a heavy cardboard box, complete with one, well, I’ll call it a font cartridge for lack of a better term, a sticky cutting board, cutter head, and power supply.

Once unpacked, you’ll need to remove the requisite bits of cardboard from everywhere. Installation of the cutter head is straightforward, however, the clamp needs to go around the larger-diameter portion of the unit, not the smaller portion.

Cricut unit, out of the box, front and back:

cricut front closed Cricut Front view

Pop in the cartridge, stick the keyboard template on the keyboard grid, and power it on. The power button also opens the doors of the unit.
You can see the cartridge in this pic:

cricut right

The cutterhead and how it fits in the arm. Note the nut (points to the left) on the arm – just unscrew this a couple of turns, then it will swing to the right, releasing the arm.

Cricut CutterCricut Cutterhead carrier

You’ll need to cut some paper to fit the 6 inch x 12 inch cutting board, peel the protective film from the cutting board, then stick the paper down. Be aware, the sticky stuff on the board is seriously sticky. Looks like this keeps the paper from sliding around as it’s being sliced by the cutter head.

The three wheels, two on the left, one on the right control the size of the cutout you’re doing and the pressure the cutter exerts.  The wheel on top of the cutter head controls the blade depth.

Push the board and paper into the unit, then press the “load paper” button. It will drag the material in, and position itself for the first cut. (more about the second cut a little later)

Key in some text using the keyboard. Note that although {,},(,),[,and ] characters are listed, I couldn’t find a way to actually produce the right (close) characters. I’m guessing that since these are symmetrical, you’re just intended to print cut the open ones, then flip them over for the close.

The top, with the keyboard:

Cricut open top

The included cartridge has some special features, like the signpost, and some pre-arranged words.

To use the special features, press the feature button then type some text for the feature. One cartridge has a signpost feature. Press the feature button for the signpost, then type a character. When cut, you will have a signpost with the character imposed.

Now that we have a signpost designed, let’s print cut it. Press the big, friendly “Cut” button. Cricut will then move the paper in, and cut out the design, much like a pen-based plotter once drew on the paper. When it’s done, press the “Eject paper” button and Cricut will spit out the paper and cutting board.

Getting the cut-out off of the cutting board isn’t easy. The adhesive is strong, and if you’re not careful, you may tear or otherwise maul your new creation. There is a toolkit for this, but it looks like being careful with an X-Acto type knife should do the trick.
Since I’m sure you’ll want to do something else, we’ll do a second cut. Put the paper back in, with the cut end into the machine first. Punch the “Load Last” button. This thing remembers where on the paper you were, so it will skip over the previously-cut section, bringing you to fresh, pristine paper, ready for the next cut.

Now, let’s see how sharp (pun intended) you are. Did you notice the USB-B port on the back panel photo? I did. I also just happened to have the correct USB cable. So, I plugged it in. Turns out, Windows XP says this unit is a “USB <-> Serial”. Word on the ‘net says that this is currently used for software maintenance, but that the manufacturer is considering adding PC support at a later date.

Pros:

  • Doesn’t require a PC
  • Easily portable
  • Easy to use for non-techies
  • Nice storage boxes for font cartridges and keyboard overlays

Cons:

  • USB port is worthless.
  • Cutting board will wear out, replacements are available
  • keyboard overlay is so, 1980s?

Look for some more comments on the USB thing in my Soapbox.

Manufacturer’s website: http://www.cricut.com